Google’s Efforts to Create Natural Language Translation Tool for Speech – Discussion

I was just reading an interesting discussion over on LinkedIn about Google’s efforts to create a natural language translation tool. Here’s the initial question:

“How many of you think that Googles anouncement last week of developing a speech to speech translation technoloy in natrural language in 2-3 years is feasible??”Atiq Rehman

Here are some of the highlights of the discussion:

“You can find those statements from the 1950s on.”Cerstin Mahlow

“As long as the sources of error are as great as they are now, I have trouble thinking of many contexts where people would be willing to tolerate the flaws. Maybe chatters who are only looking for entertainment and have no bottom line regarding accuracy. In war / emergency contexts, perhaps. In business, I think the problems just about doom the effort, unless a cultural adjustment makes people value “meeting” someone in this way even when the comprehension is shaky.”John Rehling

“Underestimating Google is often a mistake, but, as an example, could I remind readers of the 2006 announcement by IBM of ‘Real Time Translation Services'”Eric Janke

This is a very interesting discussion, as I work in both the technology and linguistic arenas I can see a bit of both sides.
On the linguistic side it is very difficult to imagine that a machine can replace a human when thinking of translation. There many different nuances to every language and the same word can often mean many different things. Getting the correct tanslation can be a very intuitive process. Let alone dealing with accents, dialects etc.
On the technology side it is a great and exciting challenge to create a tool that can intelligently translate language in real time. Computers are becoming more and more intelligent, and today they can logically solve problems that we could dream of 10-15 years ago.
I don’t believe that real time translation will be perfected anytime soon. It can be functional for very basic speech but as John said it must be very rudimentary. Computers can use context, formulas or other logical processes, but they just don’t have the ability to intuitively understand what is being said. Plus, pronunciations, accents, slang make it difficult as well. The speech would have to be very formal and correct to even have a chance.

What do you think?

You can check out the discussion Googles Recent Anouncement on LinkedIn in The Language Technology Group

Think Locally in Every Way Possible – International SEO

I just commented on an article over on Search Engine World. Check it out:

This is a good post. To things really stick out though. Simply translating a keyword that works in one language to another language is definitely no guarantee for success. You really need to have intimate knowledge of the language/culture of the target market. Ideally you should use a native of the market to help you with keyword discovery. This leads into the second point: “Think local, in every way possible.” This is absolutely necessary for success!

Original post: Top International Search Marketing Failures to Avoid in 2010

“As we begin a new decade, our best chance for success in 2010 is to look back over the failures of our past in order to succeed with our programs in the future. Samuel Smiles once wrote, “We learn wisdom from failure much more than from success. We often discover what will do, by finding out what will not do; and probably he who never made a mistake never made a discovery.”

Obama White House Calls for Machine Translation

I just read this post on Global Watchtower. Although the idea of machine translation is kind of bittersweet for most translators and translation agencies, the fact that the current administration sees the advantage of advanced language technology “our quality of life and establish the foundation for the industries and jobs of the future” is a good thing. It shows a global perspective and that the administration sees past it’s borders. It is clear that in today’s day and age we can not isolate ourselves an must take advantage of tools that help with international trade and relationship building.

Read the article here:
Obama White House Calls for Machine Translation

Combininng SEO and Localization Best Practices

Just read a great post Translating Keywords Should Never EVER Happen – Search Engine Watch (SEW) It explains the difference between “translation” and “localization” without even knowing it. Sure you can “translate” your keywords into foreign languages, but there is no guarantee that the will perform even remotely similar to the original. You need to Localize them!

Localization is the process of adapting a product or service to a particular language, culture, and desired local “look-and-feel.”

So Andy is spot on about SEO/SEM Localization when he says, “The only solution is to use a native-speaker to conduct research and use those keywords to craft your page titles, description, and keyword tags, as well as your PPC keywords and accompanying sponsored links.”

Translating Keywords Should Never EVER Happen – Search Engine Watch (SEW)

Reassessing the causes (Mistranslation at origin of Vietnam war?) – Washington Times

I wonder how often this has happened throughout history? I bet it’s more than we realize.

“It now seems clear that reports of a second attack, on Aug. 4, 1964, were mistaken — largely a product of “freak weather effects on radar and overeager sonarmen,” as the ship’s skipper would conclude later. It also seems clear that there was a midlevel “coverup” at the National Security Agency when it was discovered that communications intercepts on Aug. 4 had been mistranslated — which may have contributed to the confusion about a second attack.”

Read the full article here: Reassessing the causes – Washington Times

Wake up! How to Deal with Time Differences in Contact with Clients

Written by guest writer and freelance translator Joanna Diez. Her native tongue is Polish, she has a Master’s Degree in Applied Linguistics and has lived and studied in Poland, Germany and USA. Currently an Arizona resident, translator, mom and part-time writer:

As a translator living in the Southwest United States and spending six weeks a year in Europe, I have to deal with a lot of issues regarding time zones. Here are a few tips for translators who want to keep all of their global clients happy and remain sane and rested as well.

The reality is, most agencies have regular office hours that are more or less the same in the whole world. Only the biggest agencies offer 24/7 live services and one can always contact a project manager who can help out at any given time. Usually upon receiving a project the translator is told precisely who to contact at a later hour regarding any details. On the other hand, medium and small agencies, not to mention direct clients, can be contacted from 8-9AM till 4-5PM local time. It is very hard to get a hold of someone at their offices on weekends.

As freelance translators, most of us does not set strict working times and often upon receiving an assignment thinks “It’s Friday afternoon, I’m going to take care of this project over the weekend”. Or: “The client is in London, I am in New York and it’s past noon, so I have lots of time to get the job done”. Yes, but what if we have an urgent question for the project manager, one that cannot possibly be answered by Google but only by the client? For example: “What does the abbreviation BGMS-X2 mean?” Therefore upon receiving and reviewing the translation project, consenting and realistically assessing the time needed to translate, the translator has to reread the project from a soon unavailable client/agency representative right away and ask any and all questions as soon as possible, to avoid scratching his or her head on a Sunday afternoon. So our first rule would be: Communicate immediately and do not leave solving problems for later. Even a simple task like downloading a TM from a client’s ftp server can pose a problem later, so all tasks of this kind also need to be performed right away. Make sure the project file opens and saves without problems, the TM is the correct one and the instructions are clear before the client goes home.

The translator also has to determine where his or her potential clients are located. The optimal situation would be of course to solicit clients from the same time zone we live in, but we all want to be global, competitive and mostly work over the Internet, so this is not always possible.

The second rule is therefore to realistically assess communication possibilities when acquiring a client. For example: If a translator who resides in Hamburg likes to work only in the morning and goes to bed early, he or she will not be able to communicate with an agency located in Los Angeles, California that as a rule distributes projects only in the afternoon. Agencies do not appreciate translators replying to emails with a 12-hour delay – usually the project is then assigned to someone else or even already translated. Therefore we have to be more realistic than greedy – even in the current difficult economic conditions – and ask ourselves, if we want to set the alarm clock for 1AM to check on our new client, or should we just say sorry, but this relationship is not going to work out.

And finally, when traveling, we have to keep in touch with existing clients. Of course, everyone has the right to go on vacation, but if this vacation is longer than a week or so and the translator plans to work in a different location in the world, we have to make sure the clients know how to contact us – unfortunately – during their own business hours. This sometimes means getting up at night or very early to be able to respond to job offers. Some clients also forget about where we are located and call us at odd times of the night, demanding us to “confirm file reception”. Make sure to either unplug the work phone before going to bed or leave the answering machine on. Getting clients used to the fact that the translator can be bothered at any given time is not always a good idea. A polite and humorous remark in the next e-mail often does the trick.

As a translator located in the Southwest United States, I have made a habit of getting up very early every morning to communicate with my European clients. These relationships are important to both parties, so I try to reply to their e-mails first thing in the morning, and they are aware they cannot expect an answer to their e-mails before early afternoon. Our long-term collaboration is possible because both parties have realistic expectations and adjust their schedules to make sure a quality job is performed by a rested translator. And this is what I wish to all of my colleagues out there.

Not Knowing English Can Get You a Ticket

I just read an old article (Speak English well, or get a ticket) about a truck driver that received a ticket in Alabama because a state trooper believed that he was not fluent enough to understand what the trooper was asking him. I don’t know that whether this guy was able to understand the trooper or not, as I never heard him speak, but I really I applaud the federal government for requiring people to be able to converse in English.

“Federal law requires that anyone with a commercial driver’s license speak English well enough to talk with police. Authorities last year(2007) issued 25,230 tickets nationwide for violations. Now the federal government is trying to tighten the English requirement, saying the change is needed for safety reasons.”

To preface, I lived in Germany for a number of years and although you can get by with English, at no time did I expect anyone to speak English for my benefit. After all I was the foreigner in their country. It would have been simply arrogant and lazy to not learn the language of the country in which I was living.

There still is controversy about whether English is the official language of the USA, but whether or not it was officially put on the books or not, it is. Many argue that the number of Spanish speakers is ever increasing, but the thing is, the constitution is in English and the laws are written in English. Bottom line you need to know English to fully understand the way the society in the USA functions. You can’t carry an interpreter around in your pocket.

I am a big advocate of internationalism, bi/multilingualism and tolerance, but it is pure arrogance (or laziness) to live in a country/society and expect them to accommodate to YOUR language skills.

So, my message to all those complaining that laws such as this one are unfair: Suck it up and learn English! It’s all around you.

International Business / Global Market Roundtable – A Lancaster PA Chamber Event

Tuesday June 23, 2009 – 7:30 – 9:00 a.m., the International Business / Global Market Committee from the Lancaster PA Chamber of Commerce and Industry will be hosting a roundtable.

The event is sponsored by Fulton Bank and will feature Rhonda Kleinman, the economic development manager of the Library System of Lancaster County. The topic will be centered around exploring sources for finding information about foreign companies and industries, including economic and business conditions through databases, websites and print resources.

Come join us and learn more about international sourcing as well as the International Business/Global Market Committee. Register on the chamber website. International Business / Global Market Roundtable

-Blackbird e-Solutions is a founding member of the International Business/Global Market Committee.

German/English Translators: Sammelaktion: Bulk Action vs Batch Process

I first came across “Sammelaktion” translating/editing a ERP software package. The previous translator used the translation “collective action.”

Sammelaktionen ( ) Hier koennen Sie die Abwesenheitszeiten fuer mehrere Personen gleichzeitig Aendern
Collective actions ( ) Here you can change the absences for many persons simultaneously.

Die Verarbeitung von Sammelaktionen ist ebenfalls moeglich.
Collective actions can also be processed.

On, under KudoZ (search service) people have suggested “bulk action.”

I’ve worked as a consultant in the IT industry in both Germany and the USA. And also more specifically for software companies. We always used “batch process” or some derivation of this. In the software world the the other two translations seem clumsy.

Unfortunately I think I’m stuck with the previous translators choice, but every time I have to translate this it bugs me.

My question is; does anyone else have experience in this field? (i.e. not just translation experience) Do you use the term “batch process”? Can you confirm that I am right/wrong? What are you thoughts about this translation?


Upcoming Webinars From – The Translation Workplace

Over the next few weeks, the leading portal for freelance translation professionals will be hosting a number of webinars to help freelancers.

Before starting as a freelance translator April 24

Freelance translator’s career development April 29

How to work for translation agencies April 30

Planning freelance translator’s career May 5